I just had the opportunity to screen the very topical documentary made by Delaney Ruston, called Screenagers. This provocative film explores the impact that screen time and media addiction has on kids today. This is one of the most relevant parenting issues of the day, and managing kids’ media habits is a huge challenge facing modern parents and teens. Delaney, a doctor, and concerned Mom, like all of us, is attempting to find the balance between allowing her teens access to the devices they desire, while, at the same time trying to set reasonable limits to encourage them to use the devices responsibly. I can’t think of one parent I know that doesn’t struggle with the challenge of monitoring kids and their screen time.
In the film, Delaney interviews neuroscientists who study the teenage brain who, like her, are concerned about the impact of prolonged screen exposure and its effects on kids’ ability to concentrate. What’s scary is that these devices are still relatively new, and we really don’t fully know the long-term effects of screen exposure. Still, well over half of America’s teens have smart phones. Another frightening statistic is that kids spend, on average, 6.5 hours a day on screens, not including classroom or homework screen time! Kids themselves, in the movie, talk about how they have trouble focusing at times. One boy in the film even had to be checked into a treatment facility to recover from a video game addiction that resulted in his failing out of college. The experts in the film reiterate that addiction is addiction – regardless of the substance. In other words, the brain acts the same way whether it is craving drugs or screen time.
I watched the film with my son, and it sparked such an interesting discussion at our family dinner. One of Delaney’s personal solutions was to instigate “Tech Tuesday” where the weekly family dinner topic in her home, is about how technology is affecting their family’s lives. I recommend seeing this film, either with your family, or your school. Details on community screenings can be found on the Screenagers website. Setting boundaries and limits around technology for adults as well as children is an issue that is unique to this moment in time. The consequences for parents not being “tech savvy” in this regard could have severely detrimental consequences on the health and future of our children. Why not have a family screen night and watch this documentary together? It may be one of the most important and thought provoking family movie nights you have all year.
From the website. “Every week, screenings at schools, churches, synagogues, youth groups, Girl Scouts, community centers, companies and all kinds of organizations around the world mean that more and more people are seeing this film and talking about the important topics it raises. If you don’t see a screening you can attend, learn how to host one in your community.”